Helping things along: Okay or No Way?
October 31, 2006 10:36 PM   Subscribe

Super-embarrassing, super-gross question about poo and the female anatomy.

All right. I'm a girl. So is my sister. The other day she was like, "I have something really gross to tell, actually, I'm not going to say it." And I was like, "Oh come on, just tell me." And she was like, "No." And I was like, "Yes." And she was like, "Fine, but don't say I didn't warn you."

She said that the last time she had a gynecologist appointment, during the workup, the gyno told her that she wasn't going to do an anal exam because she felt a stool through the back wall of her vagina. Apparently, you can feel stools queuing by the exit through the back wall of the vagina. Color me shocked. I'd never really thought about it before.

What's more: my sister, who, periodically, has trouble with constipation, informed me that by inserting one's fingers into the vagina you can actually PUSH THE RELUCTANT POO FRAGMENT OUT. I was like "Whaaa...?" And so later, when I was doing my thang in the bathroom and sensed a stubborn remainder, I decided to try it. It totally worked!

But my question is, and although I doubt this will end up being common bathroom behavior for me: is there anything particularly dangerous about doing this? I'm thinking probably no, since cooler people than me engage in shit that's a whole lot kinkier than vaginal-wall manipulation, but I don't want to look down one day and realize I've worked out my entire large intestine.

I swear to god this is a serious question. Try it (if you are so equipped). I realize that perhaps I have lowered the sophistication level of Ask Metafilter to Preteen Standard and I apologize. But also, if it were my website, I would enthusiastically welcome all related one-liners, but since it's not, responses that directly address the question of whether this practice will result in some hideous rectal deformity would be, of course, very much appreciated.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (25 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
You should also see your doctor if you are a woman and find that putting a finger in the vagina helps to pass a stool, because this may mean a weakness in the supporting tissues (known as a ‘rectocele’). This is not dangerous, but can be treated by a gynaecologist.

posted by stray at 10:44 PM on October 31, 2006

Not to be gross here, but there is the whole issue of unwashed poo hands going up there where nasty infections like to hang out when they are given an invitation.
posted by Pollomacho at 10:49 PM on October 31, 2006

First relax... there's no problem with posting questions like this. IANAD (and this would be a good question to ask your doctor; trust me, s/he will take it well in stride), but the only concern, to my knowledge, is that getting any fecal matter into the vagina is something you want to carefully avoid. As long as your hand isn't in or near your anus beforehand (and is otherwise clean), gentle pressure on the insides of the vaginal wall is not a problem. Take it from someone who has experimented, to her delight, with various kinds of non-gentle pressure. :) You know what feels okay to you -- you would certainly feel pain before you managed to hurt your intestine/rectum (much less distended it).
posted by lorimer at 10:53 PM on October 31, 2006

IANAD, and you should ask yours if this is troubling you.

I think the concern is, however statistically minor, that whenever you are manipulating the contents of the bowel through the vaginal wall, the anal and vaginal tissues can be easily constrained, particularly if the bowel is full, and you stand some chance of causing small tears with fingernails from the vaginal side, or with the bowel contents from the anal side. In a limit case, this could result in something like a recto vaginal fistula, which is more commonly a very infrequent complication of childbirth [another situation in which the vaginal and anal tissues are unduly constrained under significant pressure]. So, the general rule would be to not make a regular practice of it, but some women do similar things in fairly common sexual practices, such as using a butt plug during vaginal sex, and are never the worse for it.
posted by paulsc at 10:55 PM on October 31, 2006

I see Pollomacho beat me to the "no fecal matter in the vagina" point... and people, this is just the human body. There's nothing nasty, gross or juvenile about the question.
posted by lorimer at 10:56 PM on October 31, 2006 [1 favorite]

I assure you, little darlings, this is utterly mundane.

Of course it can be done, and many pronographic sights and pleasureable acts would be without value or existence if not for that flexible soft wall that communicates sensation so fully.

Pooping is the least of these feats.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:56 PM on October 31, 2006

Yeah, this is normal. I have had occasion to wish that more women were aware of what your sister's gyn pointed out. As long as you don't have sharp nails, or persist too hard if it really isn't happening, and as long as you have clean fingers, I don't see why it would cause a problem. Actually, I think I've seen it suggested somewhere, I'll try to find a source.
posted by crabintheocean at 11:09 PM on October 31, 2006

And I believe that rectoceles are when (to be crude) trying to poop just pushes the poop into the vagina space because of weakness in that area (and you need to support the back of the vagina to give the poop a straighter path. It isn't just if you can feel the poop - that's normal, that wall is tough, but it's thin.
posted by crabintheocean at 11:14 PM on October 31, 2006

As far as my knowledge and experience goes, this is totally, totally no big deal. As a person who (heavens, it's getting late and this is probably too much information) has problems with stop-up-ed-ness herself, this not something to worry about. There's what, 3/4 inch of tissue between the vaginal canal and the rectum? Hard stool could be (and is) easily felt.

As long as your hands are clean and this isn't a very common occurence (which would suggest a problematic level of constipation).

Actually, I don't even see why people are worried about unwashed hands. I don't see how you could be in contact with any actual poo if your fingers aren't actually entering the rectum.

In short, don't fret and eat plenty of fiber.
posted by mostlymartha at 11:14 PM on October 31, 2006 [1 favorite]

It's fine, it's normal. Here is a longer article on rectocele which includes information on when you can make the determination that you may need to get things looked at by a doctor. In short, the wall between the vagina and rectum is soft. It can weaken through childbirth, age or strain. If you develop a herniated condition that causes you pain, constipation or other problems listed, go see a gyn or a doc. Otherwise just make sure your hands are clean. Also, and this may be totally irrelevant, I've never had a gyn do an anal exam.
posted by jessamyn at 11:17 PM on October 31, 2006

Me neither Jessamyn, that was the surprising part of the question for me.
posted by crabintheocean at 11:22 PM on October 31, 2006 [1 favorite]

If you really need that much help with constipation, use a latex glove (cheap at your local drugstore) and go directly through the anus. This is done to assist people who are quadriplegics or paraplegics.
posted by digitalis at 12:42 AM on November 1, 2006

I find when the going gets tough a push on the perinium does wonders as well.
posted by nadawi at 1:37 AM on November 1, 2006

Is this more or less dangerous than sticking your finger up your your arse to mamipulate stuff? I can imagine pros and cons with regard to either option.
I can also remember that a female power lifting friend who needed to shed a few ounces to make a weight category was ordered into the loo with soap on her finger to see whether she could work something out. Was that dangerous? (Finally, it's worth reminding ourselves that constipated mathematicians work it out with a pencil.)
posted by biffa at 3:09 AM on November 1, 2006

Metafilter: 500 ways to evict a stubborn tenant?

Jokes aside, as a male with occasionally hellish constipation, I've also found that manipulation of the perinium (just after I've washed, of course) allows me to find relief without doing something, well, really disgusting.
posted by The Confessor at 5:16 AM on November 1, 2006

  1. Coincidentally, a couple of weeks ago my SO (who is a 3rd year med student) mentioned to me that gentle pressure on the vaginal wall is actually a recommended method of relief for women with minor constipation. If you are constipated enough that it becomes regular practice, see a doctor. But the act in itself is not dangerous as long as you use common sense (e.g. no sharp nails, stop if it's painful, etc.).
  2. I have to echo mostlymartha's confusion as to why some people are so concerned about the unclean hands thing (particularly Pollomacho and Derek). Clearly one should not go about putting obviously filthy fingers into one's vagina, but I fail to see how taking a simple dump would result in "poo hands." Wiping, now that's another story.

posted by purplemonkie at 5:25 AM on November 1, 2006

To answer your question: I don't think there's anything particularly dangerous about it.

To derail: Did you know that when a woman is in labor it's common to poop? As in, totally just shitting in the middle of a labor pain? This is one of those things about pregnancy that I wish they would have taught me in high school. I was mortified when I found out that it happens, and then when I asked other moms/friends they would say, "Oh yeah. I totally shat the bed. They just came and changed the sheets. It was no big deal."

I can't even find any links on this. Given the way your question is worded, I thought this would be some good info to pass on to you.
posted by frecklefaerie at 6:52 AM on November 1, 2006

If you are over 30, your gyn should be doing a rectal exam.
posted by thinkpiece at 6:58 AM on November 1, 2006

frecklefaerie - yes, I've seen it happen in fact. I was shocked too when I found out about that.
posted by Amizu at 7:10 AM on November 1, 2006

Mod note: a few comments removed, please take metadiscussion to metatalk or email, thanks.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:35 AM on November 1, 2006

Get a bidet. You can get the after-market types that attach to your toilet for under $100 on Amazon. Even the hand-held models, which resemble a kitchen sink hose sprayer are great. Squirts of water on the anus make it easier to go. This is pretty well known in parts of the world where toilet-mounted bidets are common, and people aren't so embarrassed to talk about it.

Plus, a bidet makes for more thorough cleanups afterward -- washing with water vs. smearing with paper. All it takes to be a bidet-convert is to use one a few times.
posted by Katravax at 11:08 AM on November 1, 2006

Routine anal exams in asymptomatic persons are of highly questionable benefit/necessity in persons under 40. That said, if there is a reason to do one, the presence of stool in the rectum is a non-issue. O/w, agree w/ above. Lots of people digitally stimulate this part of the body to provoke a BM. Some even do it to their pets, or so I'm told.
posted by docpops at 11:15 AM on November 1, 2006

My doc does a rectal exam every time, apparently its easier to feel the back wall. I guess it isn't a rectal exam as much as a typical gyno exam just palpitating from a different vantage point.
posted by stormygrey at 2:02 PM on November 1, 2006

In a limit case, this could result in something like a recto vaginal fistula, which is more commonly a very infrequent complication of childbirth

I understand that these fistulae only form after a long period of pressure on the vaginal canal (as you say in a difficult labour). The pressure needs to be firm enough and extended enough to cut of the blood supply to an area of vagina and rectum causing the tissue to become necrotic resulting in a fistula. I would think that this is extremely unlikely to happen in what is described in the post. I have seen cases of obstetric fistula in West Africa and these were all due to significantly prolonged labour.

As for concerns about fecal matter in the vagina: trace amounts are not likely to cause that much trouble. My understanding is that the vagina is not all that sensitive to fecal bacteria (obviously, you should still be careful about using clean hands). The concern is bacteria getting into the urethra causing a urinary tract infection. This can happen during vaginal sex as the perineum is pretty much colonized with gut bacteria - which is why it is usually recommended for women to urinate after sex.
posted by madokachan at 3:17 PM on November 1, 2006

And of course, to echo what has already been said, it would be best to eat lots of insoluble fibre and keep hydrated to avoid being constipated in the first place. Chronic constipation due to poor diet can raise your risk for developing colon cancer etc etc. But you probably know all of that already. Preventative medicine is the best medicine!
posted by madokachan at 3:20 PM on November 1, 2006

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